(Velvet Hammer/Atlantic)

01. Smile
02. Again & Again
03. Emotional Times
04. Now
05. One Nite Stand
06. Believed
07. Mentobe
08. I
09. Mirror's Reflection
10. Dragged Down
11. Comeback
12. Impact

RATING: 8/10

A longtime underground favorite, Detroit's TAPROOT garnered a substantial amount of publicity last year when they were publicly scorned by LIMP BIZKIT's Fred Durst for having skipped out on a deal with his Interscope-distributed imprint in favor of a new label set up by their Velvet Hammer management through Atlantic Records. The whole episode has since thankfully blown over, with TAPROOT finally having gone on to make their much-anticipated debut album with producer Ulrich Wild (i.e. STATIC-X), an excellent collection of cutting-edge heavy rock that bodes extremely well for the group's future.


Although TAPROOT's sound has always revolved around the same downtuned groove that characterizes much of the current so-called "pimprock" genre, the quartet have managed to incorporate a healthy dose of the CURE / DEPECHE MODE-style, pop-flavored melodies into their songwriting, a factor that gives them an advantage in an overcrowded scene where unoriginality is running rampant. This combination is especially effective on "Emotional Times" and "I", two of the album's high points, where the emotion-filled vocals of Stephen Richards mix with the thick guitars of Mike DeWolf to create an undeniably modern yet commercially accessible sound that stands head and shoulders above that of the bulk of their competition.


Comprised primarily of re-recorded and reworked versions of the TAPROOT's earlier demo material, Gift is not completely indicative of the band's full potential, with some of the tracks coming across like an act that is still in the process of honing and developing its style. However, there are enough quality moments on the group's debut to suggest that TAPROOT have the necessary skills to build a long and illustrious musical career, and it is with great interest that I look forward to hearing the band's progress in the coming years.


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